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A Semester of Extremes

by Erin Cram Wednesday, April 25, 2018

As this semester has gone on, there have been a wide range of extremes. From the weather to the political climate, I’ve seen Paris in such a unique way. I arrived in Paris in January when they were having day after day of rain. From that rain came one of the biggest floods Paris has ever seen! The Seine, the river flowing through Paris, rose extremely high, leading to closed metro stops and rats everywhere. It was crazy to try to conceptualize what Paris looked like without the floods, since when I arrived it was already flooded. Now I go back and compare photos and I am shocked as I walk places that were totally under water just months before.

Dates of the water height in Paris
As I was walking along the river after the flooding went down, I found this meter showing the flood levels of the past. 2018 was already marked!  

The Pont d'Alma bridge with the high river
Photographic evidence of how high the river got. Usually you can walk on a path under that archway. 

Next, I had the opportunity to see the beautiful Paris under a fresh layer of powder snow. Snow doesn’t come often in Paris. There is no doubt a white Paris is beautiful, but there’s also no doubt that Paris and Parisians have no idea how to deal with snow! I saw people falling left and right and all of the buses and taxis shut down, even with just half an inch. I must admit that the Wisconsin girl in me had a hard time not saying, “You think this is bad? You should see what happens in my hometown!”

A snowy and slushy street in Paris
My street in Paris under a fresh snowfall. The slush on the ground stayed there until it melted, no shoveling or plowing in Paris!

From winter snowfalls we moved onto extreme heat. This past weekend it was 87 degrees and sunny here! I was a bit frantic as I definitely didn’t pack clothes for that weather, but we did what we could to stay in the shade and I bought a couple tank-tops. My host mom said she’s never seen it be that hot in April.

Finally, while the weather has reached loads of funny extremes in my time here, I have also been exposed to some extreme strikes here in Paris. Since March, the railway workers, Air France workers, and many other workers and students have been on strike. It makes it total chaos in this city as people have an extremely hard time getting to and from where they want to go. I learned this the hard way as I had to move around some of my train tickets because of a strike planned for the day of my travel.

Overall, I’m honestly thrilled to have experienced these extremes, even if they were a burden at points, because they truly helped me feel like a real parisienne in my time abroad. I think it gave me a genuine glimpse of the day to day joys and struggles of life in Paris and I wouldn’t change any of it. Although, I could have done without the rats.